Elizabeth R. Seaquist, MD, President, Medicine & Science, American Diabetes Association
To prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes—you know that as the mission of the American Diabetes Association. That’s exactly why I have volunteered for this organization for more than 25 years. It’s also what I think about every day as a physician and diabetes researcher.
The quality of life for people with this disease has improved dramatically in the last few decades. Just ask anyone who has lived with diabetes since the 1960s, when blood glucose test strips were first introduced to replace those inconvenient urine tests. These patients have since witnessed the introduction of blood glucose monitors, insulin pens and insulin pumps—not to mention the many medications and other treatments we now have to better manage diabetes and its complications.
Yes, things are much better. But even insulin is not a cure for diabetes. And just as diabetes research helped bring about all the advances I mentioned above, it will also be what leads us toward a cure.
I understand that when you live with diabetes every day, this progress may feel incredibly slow. But there is much hope, as we’re in the midst of an incredibly exciting time for diabetes research. Diabetes is so much more complex and nuanced than researchers previously thought, and we are finding out so much about what causes it. For example, we know about the role of the pancreas and its beta cells in producing insulin (or failing to, as the case may be). But it turns out that the brain and gut might also play a role in causing type 2 diabetes. Who knew?
Research like this takes a lot of intelligence and ingenuity, and we want to get the smartest people working on the problem of diabetes. We want to get these researchers early in their careers, and make it possible for them to pursue their big ideas—because who knows where they may lead.
The Association’s Research Program fills the critical funding gap for diabetes researchers in the United States, especially junior researchers. Our program is designed to complement that of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by supporting new investigators and new ideas. With this support, they often go on to obtain more substantial federal funding to keep fighting against diabetes.
And let’s not forget the Association’s newest research initiative, Pathway to Stop Diabetes, which focuses on transformational approaches to ending this epidemic. The 2013 awards were just announced, providing grants of $1.625 million each to scientists who are either just starting their careers in diabetes research or are established in another field but want to expand their focus to our cause.
Want to know more? The Association has a research database that lets you search all the projects being investigated right now, as well as research that has been completed, thanks to these brilliant researchers and our generous donors. Search the database—by diabetes type, by research institution, by grant category or other criteria—to learn what role each project hopes to play in preventing, treating or curing diabetes and why each researcher was motivated to pursue the field of diabetes. I hope you find this resource as fascinating as I do!
So here’s to a great year for all of us. In 2014 we may see one major advance in diabetes care, or perhaps many smaller ones. Either way, I thank all those tireless, talented researchers for getting us that much closer to stopping diabetes.
Elizabeth R. Seaquist, MD
President, Medicine & Science, 2014
American Diabetes Association